Liens show Justice’s coal companies owe WV $4.4M in unpaid taxes

By By Michael Virtanen
The Associated Press

BECKLEY — Coal companies owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice still owe his cash-strapped state $4.4 million in unpaid taxes due at least a year ago, tax liens show.

The liens, filed in Raleigh County where parent company Southern Coal Corp. has been based, show Kentucky Fuel owing $2.7 million through 2014 and Justice Energy owing $1.7 million.

Other liens include $739,000 by the IRS against Kentucky Fuel and private judgments against Kentucky Fuel, Virginia Fuel and Southern Coal totaling $2.9 million.

Justice isn’t involved now in the operation of his family’s businesses, which are going into a blind trust, and the tax obligations are a matter for company comment, said his spokesman, Grant Herring. Justice recently filed an ethics disclosure that lets the public know about his business interests and investments, he said.

“The governor is working with a multitude of financial institutions to put his assets in a blind trust,” Herring said Tuesday.

Justice took office a month ago.

Southern Coal didn’t immediately reply to queries Tuesday about the tax debts. In January, the company said it will meet every obligation it owes. It didn’t say when.

Justice’s financial disclosure posted on the state Ethics Commission website lists interests in 116 businesses or organizations, many involved in coal mining. It doesn’t show net worth or income. It lists 14 state contracts with his Greenbrier and Glade Springs resorts.

The Ethics Commission, which has approved trust agreements for past governors with business interests affected by the state, hasn’t approved one for Justice.

He has proposed closing a $123 million deficit in the current fiscal year’s budget by drawing from the state’s rainy day fund.

The new Democratic governor has proposed closing a projected $500 million state government deficit for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, with a sales tax increase of 0.5 percent and eliminating some exemptions while adding a 0.2 percent tax on commercial gross revenues.

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